President Superboy and the Potemkin Regime

Gee whiz, I’m so glad that Dear Leader tried to normalize relations with Iran.  Is he still trying?  It’s hard to say one way or the other.  The recent claim that he’d sent word through the Swiss that he “recognized” Iran’s “nuclear rights” sure doesn’t sound too much as though he’d got his little fingers burnt enough to remember it.

I’m pleased, you see, I’d hate to think that we didn’t have a mutually helpful relation with a regime one of whose first acts on taking power was to arrest thousands upon thousands of its citizens, as young as 16 or 17, torture them, and then during the course of the first wave of arrests (cf. Solzhenitsyn’s descriptions of the “waves” that washed through GULag during the course of the years) in power slaughter between 3-5,000 of them.

This is a survivor’s story, as told in an interview in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.  She was 17 years old in 1979.  She’d been on the streets, protesting against the Shah.  Her father, an academic, didn’t like the Shah but didn’t trust the mullahs, either.  “They preach democracy,” he said; but wait until they get power, “then they’ll show you.”  “You children will see it.”  Shoulda listened to daddy, little girl.  She was living in a commune with other students when she was arrested one day on her return.  The thing they demanded of her was where were the others.  She was taken, blind-folded, to prison.

While in prison, they were herded into cells, up to 70 women, some with children, in 20 square meters.  There was no room to lie flat (try sitting on the floor with your legs scrunched up; now try sleeping like that.  Now try sleeping like that for weeks, months on end.  At night time they counted the shots in the execution yard.

This witness was placed in a cell roughly six square meters with five other women, the oldest of whom was 20 or so, the others still schoolgirls.  Three were already badly wounded from their torture.  The Islamic method is to sling them upside down and beat them on the soles of the feet; so was it with these girls.  Some of them had been beaten so severely that the skin was gone from the soles; a doctor in the prison figured out how to remove skin from other locations on their bodies and sew it on to the feet.  This witness describes such victims, years later, with oddly-shaped scars on their bodies, in the placed whence the skin was taken.

Islam — that religion of peace — forbids the execution of a virgin.  What do you do with a prison full of 17 and 18 year-old girls?  Right:  You “marry” them to their guards, who then rape them; the next day you shoot them, and the grieving “widower” is then free to “re-marry.”  They’d send the bodies to the families, together with the “decencies” due to a deceased married woman.  It’s how the families knew what had happened to their daughters.

During this time the Europeans (O! those sophisticated Europeans, not at all like our stoopid cowboy presidents at the time, were they?) came to Iran to celebrate the mullahs in much the same fashion they’d been to Lenin’s and then Stalin’s Soviet Union.  Like Walter Duranty (have we mentioned that the New York Times still refuses to disclaim the Pulitzer he won for being Stalin’s willing mouthpiece?), they were shown the Potemkin portions of the prisons, the show-piece prisoners.  They reported how wonderful it all was.

And at night they still counted the shots.

At least the Europeans of 1979 could claim some sort of innocence about the nature of the regime the mullahs set up.  Just barely could they claim it; the ink on Solzhenitsyn’s magnum opus was scarcely dry.

What’s Dear Leader’s excuse for sucking up to these murderous would-be genocidaires?


So What’s a Dad to Do?

. . . When Princess wants to traipse about the neighborhood dressed as (in Genl Butler’s delightful phrase) “a woman of the town plying her avocation”?

Judging by the subtle clues in the unnamed father’s query, I’m going to suggest that he is . . . From Around Here, as we say.  In which event he may have already missed the boat.  Teaching your daughter that she doesn’t have to marry if she doesn’t want to, that men don’t make her complete, that she is more than the sum of her primary and secondary reproductive attributes &c. &c. &c. is all very well.  But you see, those are water-dripping-on-stone lessons, and they operate, if at all, first on the intellectual level.  They must then seep into Princess’ sense of self sufficiently deeply that she internalizes them, makes them part of her understanding of herself.

Don’t get me wrong:  All this is good.  This father’s life lessons are important for his daughter to wear as armor as she sallies forth to do battle with what remains a world very hostile to the tenderness which (in my limited observations) most women in fact do desire, at some level and at some point in their lives.

But teenagers of either flavor don’t operate on intellectual planes.  They operate at visceral and hormonal levels, and unless you can win that race with your arguments you’re sunk.  Let’s be honest as well about our physiological traits.  Hormones will hear the suggestion that, “I don’t need boys to be a whole person,” or “Girls?  I can take ’em or leave ’em; plenty of time left,” and they scream unto the mountains high: “Bullshit!!”  Guess what gets listened to, the arguments or the hormones?

So how do you get at least within a length of your daughter’s hormones when you’re rounding that last curve into the home stretch?  You start the race with constant instruction about what is tacky and what is not tacky, what trashy and not-trashy. 

Warning:  This requires you to be judgmental and it requires you to raise a child to be judgmental.  But you know what happens to little girls who lack judgmental capacity?  They don’t judge.  At age 17 they bring you home a strapping grandchild of doubtful paternity, got on them by whichever slack-jawed, droopy-pants, pattern-cut-into-his-green-hair, pierced-lip male your daughter failed to judge correctly.  That’s what happens to little girls who don’t learn to be judgmental.

Little boys who lack judgmental capacity tend to end up in jail.

So what’s tacky, or trashy?  Too much make-up.  Too much jewelry.  Too valuable jewelry.  Teenage girls wearing anything other than costume jewelry in the first place.  Hair dye on a teenager.  Unclean.  Too small clothes.  Too few clothes.  Tattoos (any, anywhere, at any age).  Ears pierced more than once per.  Any other body part pierced, visible or not.  Being too interested in money.  Being too interested in boys.  Trying to be something one is not, unless one is trying to be a better person than one is inclined to be by nature.  Being too concerned with one’s popularity.  Being too solicitous of those in authority.  Being insufficiently solicitous of those who are not a threat to one’s own position (even paranoids have real enemies, especially teenaged girls, but being tacky to the buck-toothed, cross-eyed girl whose clothes never seem quite to fit right . . . because you can get away with it? tacky).  Being irreligious (do you really think you deserved to be born pretty, little girl? that all girls were born as pretty as you? that your parents somehow deserve to have a daughter as pretty as you?).  Being too religious (Disraeli line to inculcate: He was asked what was his religion.  “Sensible men are all of the same religion.”  And what was that?  “Sensible men never tell.”).  Having one’s name appear on any personal possession other than one’s driver’s license (i.e., not on one’s license plate or one’s clothing).  Driving an expensive car to high school.  Not being committed to anything beyond oneself.  Denying one’s commitments publicly.  Wearing one’s commitments publicly.

Get the point?  Children can understand “Eeewwwwww!”  They don’t do so well with “You should do/avoid X because . . . .”

So this father, likely living as he does where “tacky” and “trashy” are well understood concepts that are current in everyday discourse, has or had a chance to learn his daughter the differences.  Has he done so?  Did it take?  We can hope.  But I’ll wager he’ll get a lot, a whole lot farther, if he’d present the issue as “trashy is as trashy does, honey, and that’s trashy,” than he will with pointing out, however correctly, the life lessons he describes.  Will either set of lessons work?  We don’t know.  But both sets are necessary equipment for growing up.  In any event, parents of daughters have my fullest sympathy; I was terrified that I’d have daughters.  I haven’t (to borrow from Shakespeare) the stomach to this fight.

Full disclosure:  I have neither teenagers nor daughters, but rather three boys whom I will learn the distinctions between what is and is not tacky, trashy, and common, or die in the effort.

Friede sei mit Euch!

Seven years ago today, the re-built Frauenkirche in Dresden was reconsecrated.

When I first saw the church it was a very tall (I’d guess thirty or more feet) pile of black-stained rubble, with two hunks of burned stone wall sticking out. It stood all alone in the middle of a very wide open space, the new market. It was February, 1986, and although no one could know it at the time, the whole German Democratic Republic thing had only three-and-a-half more years to run before it got irretrievably stuck in the ditch. 

The church, the second on that site, had been built between 1726 and 1743 and was designed by the city’s municipal master builder, a boy name of George Bähr. He’d been born in 1666, in Füurstenwalde out in the sticks, and then moved to Dresden to make his bones in the city. Augustus the Strong – sufficiently strong that he was rumored to have fathered some 300 children (not by the same woman, I understand) – had become King of Poland (and converted to Catholicism for the occasion, he perhaps agreeing with Henry IV on the point) and wanted a proper residence city. What the people who were going to pay for his building schemes had to say is not well-recorded. Perhaps they weren’t asked (poor old Augustus; he lived before people knew to label that sort of thing “stimulus”). 

The city of Dresden had joined the Reformation. The original Frauenkirche of course pre-dated all that and had thus begun as a Catholic church, but was converted to Protestant use when the city made the jump. It was a municipal church; that is, it belonged to the city and not to any particular organizational unit of the Protestant church. And it was in very, very bad shape. In fact by the second decade of the 1700s it was more or less unusable. 

Money was the hang-point, as it always is. But they could plan. They invited proposals from Matthäus Pöppelmann, the builder of the Zwinger (a summer palace down by the river), from several others, and from their newly-appointed master carpenter. [N.b. Bähr was appointed municipal master carpenter before he was actually a master carpenter, a pretty high compliment, when you think about it.] Bähr’s proposal, for an enormous stone octagon supporting a stone dome, got the nod. 

Inside the lay-out is very much in tune with the Protestant emphasis on preaching the Gospel, and in baptism as the becoming one of God’s children. The pulpit juts out towards the congregation like the prow of a whaling boat, the baptismal font just behind it, and both well in front of the altar. The main floor for the congregation is arc-shaped in a rounded space formed by the eight pillars which support the 12,000 tons of inner dome and double-shell outer dome. Above the main floor are three galleries in a horseshoe shape. The effect is as nearly as possible to project the central function of the church – preaching – front and center into the physical space occupied by the congregation. 

They’d finally scraped up enough money to start by 1726. During construction the money kept running short, however, prompting Bähr to spend his own money to keep the work going. He ended up impoverishing his family with the effort, and worn down by intrigue and mounting criticism of his church’s stability, he died the day after his birthday in 1738. It wasn’t until five years later that the final touches were added. 

Dresdners promptly fell in love with their church. The loved her magnificent beauty indoors, play of light off copious gilding and the almost luminescent paint of the interior; they loved how she towered above their city, visible for miles around. They loved how people from all over Europe came to marvel at it (it was and remained for over 200 years the largest domed structure north of the Alps). They loved the magnificent pipe organ, designed by the great Gottfried Silbermann and played by no less than Bach himself. Silbermann and Bähr had got cross-ways on the design of the organ case. Silbermann was accustomed to design everything about the organ (which he in fact had done for the church at Forchheim, also built by Bähr), but Bähr decided that the organ was part of the architecture of the space and so insisted on his prerogative. They loved the paintings on the inner dome, four representing the evangelists, alternating with four showing the virtues of faith, hope, love, and mercy (the virtues are represented by females figures, all of which showed the same face; the speculation is that the artist might have used Bähr’s third wife as the model). 

Shortly before midnight on February 13, 1945, the Lancasters of Air Marshal Arthur Harris appeared above the city, in two waves. Dresden had not been bombed yet. Her medieval inner city streets, tightly packed with ancient buildings, was a tinder box. The bomber fleets that night carried almost no high explosives; the British just set out to see how big a fire they could start. The flames were visible to the aircrew over 200 miles away. In the morning the 8th Air Force B-17s showed up and added of their plenty. 

The city was full, and was known to be so, of civilian refugees from points farther east, fleeing from the Red Army. No effort was made, at all, to target the few military or quasi-military targets (thermite bombs will not wreck a railroad switching yard, or drop a stone or steel bridge into the water; the few armaments factories in the area were at the edge of town or completely across the river, well outside the attack’s target zone). Depending on whom you ask, between 35,000 to 150,000+ people died that night. Many of them were so completely incinerated by the firestorm that no trace of them was left to count when the stones had cooled. The firestorm generated winds sufficiently powerful that they sucked streetcars through the air towards the core of the flames. 

The Frauenkirche was not hit by any high explosives, and of course the incendiaries couldn’t penetrate the dome (the outer shell is 30 or more inches thick, depending on precise location). But the thermite lit the fires of hell; the temperature inside the church is estimated at close to 1,000 degrees Celsius. The eight pillars supporting that massive dome glowed bright red, until the sandstone itself disintegrated. 

And the church came down, late morning of February 15, 1945. There she lay for the next 45 years. The locals kicked up enough fuss to prevent the ruins from being cleared off in the immediate aftermath of the war, and eventually the whole site was declared a war memorial. 

By 1985 the city had decided to rebuild, once they finished with the palace and its church (the latter sporting its own Silbermann organ) and the opera building (designed by Gottfried Semper). Reunification caught them first, but the idea had taken hold, and shortly after the Wende (the “turn”) a group of a dozen or so citizens put the word out. What sort of church should they re-build? Being Germans they worried that question half to death, with some designs being suggested that were as hideously ugly as only modern architecture can be. In the end, though, they decided that it should be as it originally was (which was somewhat different, by the way, from how it looked in 1945; for instance the interior pillars had been re-painted a sort of greenish color at some point, while their original was a multi-hued faux marble appearance). 

Reaction started modestly, but boy howdy did it grow. The eventual reconstruction cost €180 million, of which €100 million was raised by public subscription. The Dresdner Bank chipped in €7 million of its own, and raised another 70 or so through sponsoring various fund-raising drives. An American doctor (born in Germany, as a young child he’d been one of the refugees who made it through Dresden before the bombing and had seen the church) gave his entire prize money for his Nobel in medicine to the effort. The British paid to re-build the cross atop the church, and by ironic happenstance the silversmith who got the commission was the son of one of the men at the stick on one of those Lancasters. A Polish survivor of the resistance drummed up the cash to sponsor one of the vase-and-flame structures on an exterior tower. There were charitable trusts set up in Britain, the U.S., Switzerland, and France. Masons and other craftsmen came from all over Germany (and from even further afield; one of the apprentice stone cutters was American). 

Being German, when they began unstacking the rubble, they mapped out exactly where in the pile they found each re-usable stone and measured it, compared it to the original plans (which, being German, they also still had), ran it through a computer simulation in 3-D to see how it would fit, and then, as and when they could, being German, they put it exactly right back where it came from. According to the chief builder Eberhard Burger, of the roughly 21,500 cubic meters of rubble they were able to salvage approximately 7,000 of it for re-use, which when added to the remaining structural components would yield about 40% or so original material in the re-built church.

The original stones are still stained black, and so it lends a curious speckled appearance to the fassade, the balance of which is a sort of light honey colored sandstone. 

On October 30, 2005, they reconsecrated their Frauenkirche. The prime seats on the main floor, other than those reserved for dignitaries, were allocated to surviving members of the congregation, with preference for those baptized or married in the church (two older women participated in the service itself; one had been baptized 81 years before). Ludwig Güttler, the world-famous trumpeter and professor, lead the musicians from the organ loft (I don’t see how he could have the breath to blow; I’d have been too choked up, were I in his place). Eberhard Burger likewise participated, and in places if you watch you can see him choking back tears. The three bishops who had superintended the whole process were the chief celebrants. 

Here’s an excerpt, from immediately after the consecration of the entire church (they had done the pulpit, the baptismal font, the altar, and the organ separately). The chorale is “Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr,” one of the very earliest Protestant hymns, dating from the mid-1520s. 

One of the nice things about running a blog is you get to write about stuff that interests you, even if no one else. This day I claim my rights in that regard.


The Name, Please if You Will; Just the Name

Who gave the order? That’s a four-word question, one part, answerable with two words: first name and last name. Why is it so difficult to answer this one question? We had the resources in the air to take out the attackers’ heavy weapons. We had a firing solution on those weapons. Someone made the decision not to stop them from shelling the compound where four Americans asked repeatedly over the course of a seven-hour attack for help. Someone. Who was that someone? Why is this question not on the front page of every newspaper, above the fold, every day, until we get a simple answer to who gave the damned order?

In 2005 we got to know everything in the world about the head of FEMA, fer cryin’ out loud, who bungled sending help to New Orleans when the governor of the state had refused to ask for it. We got his full employment history; we got to find out where he went to school; about the only thing I don’t recall us getting was whether he’s a boxers or briefs kind of guy.  We got weeks and weeks and weeks of breathless reports of every water-cooler conversation in every penny-ante federal bureaucracy about who made what decision and when.  We got in-depth interviews with every corrupt New Orleans ward tool crying about how Geo. Bush wasn’t down on his street corner personally shovelling mud.

Why is it now seven weeks to the day after those attacks and we can’t get one simple, two-word answer?

To say that we oughtn’t be reporting the Benghazi attack because of the presidential election is logically indistinguishable from saying we shouldn’t have reported World War II in 1940 because it might impact the presidential election.  Yes, we weren’t in it then, but which of the two candidates was the more likely better to deal with a conquered France — and not unlikely a conquered England — and a German jack-boot across the neck of a whole continent was just that tiny bit relevant to the voters’ choice.  Wouldn’t anyone agree?

So why is it not equally relevant as to which of two candidates is more likely better to deal with a threat that is actual, immediate, and presently attacking us at every opportunity?  Hitler in 1940 was still going out of his way not to shoot at identifiable Americans who weren’t under actual military convoy, however much he may have wanted to.  These savages today have killed an ambassador.  Not the guy who filled the Coke machine, or the fellow who ran the motor pool.  But the actual, letters-in-his-hand ambassador to the country whose citizens killed him.

A Time for Choosing

Forty-eight years ago today, Ronald Reagan delivered a speech on behalf of Barry Goldwater.  The speech has become known as “A Time for Choosing.”

 Listen to the speech.  Listen to all of it.  Speeches which have any sort of historical legs all seem to share one attribute:  You can listen to them, or read them, decades, generations later, in some cases centuries, and they still read fresh.  The ideas and the concerns and the hopes they capture transcend the verities of the moment.  From Washington’s Farewell to Webster’s Second Reply to Hayne to the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural, through to Churchill’s Beaches and Finest Hour:  They are all immediate to us now.

We still struggle with the problems brought by entangling foreign alliances; we watch what happens when men who deny any God higher than themselves assume the helm of state.  The fact of union, from out of many lands and peoples, and what that means for the hope of the world, is at the very center of gravity of civilization.  We forever exhort ourselves to grant this last, best hope of the earth a new birth of freedom, and highly resolve that our honored dead shall not have died in vain.  As we struggle over whether to depose blood-soaked tyrants half a world away, and as we fondly hope and fervently pray that the scourge of war may quickly pass from us, we still try to balance a heart bearing malice towards none and charity for all against that necessary firmness in the right, as (we hope) God gives us to see the right, that will permit us to finish the great work we are in.  And when we are attacked, we vow that we shall fight our enemies every step of the way, from behind every fence, every shop building, in every ditch and at every creek and river crossing.  We hope that when our remote descendants examine us under the cold, unforgiving light of history, knowing then what we cannot know now, they will say of us that ours was the finest hour (although we’d be mighty proud if we never are asked to prove it up).

I don’t mean to suggest that Reagan achieved the towering heights of Lincoln or Churchill.  I am no student of rhetoric, but I do question whether snippets of his will still be part of our civil DNA 100 years hence.  What I do mean to suggest is that in much the same matter-of-fact voice of Washington, he outlined for us the choices presenting themselves to us, and that his foresight of these choices and his description of them and their portent is in its own way every bit as prescient as Washington’s in 1796.  Here then, is Ronald Reagan in 1964, almost twenty years before he dared Mr. Gorbachev to tear down this wall: 

Have You no Decency, Mr. Vice President? None at All?

He said this at a memorial service. To the father. He said it to the father who still can’t get a straight answer about why, with a drone overhead streaming real-time video of the seven hours of the attack, nothing, not one thing, was done to save his son’s life.  Genl Petraeus, through the CIA spokesman, made this statement:   “No one at any level in the CIA told anybody not to help those in need; claims to the contrary are simply inaccurate. ”  “Those in need,” by the way, included Tyrone Woods, to whom our Vice Dear Leader was speaking.

Exactly how bereft of basic human sympathy do you have to be, to say something like this to someone in the father’s position, at a time when the administration in which you are No. 2 is tenaciously defending the stone walls from which you deny him the truth about what happened on September 11, and why?  How lacking in the ability to imagine oneself into the shoes of another person must you be not to understand how taunting, how demeaning this is to the father?  How disrespectful to the son?  At least Biden didn’t just come right out and give him the ol’ “neener, neener, neener.” 

Those at the tops of gargantuan power structures are necessarily insulated from most human contact with most humans.  They are surrounded by sycophants, flunkies, turf-defenders, and would-be Machiavellis.  This is true of American presidents, British prime ministers, totalitarian dictators, and monarchs alike.  In order to have any chance at success they must therefore have if anything a heightened empathetic capacity.  They must be especially adept at imagining the lives, concerns, and aspirations of their fellow humans because they are denied nearly all direct or unmediated knowledge of it.  On the plus side of that ledger Queen Victoria had that capacity; I forget which of her ministers it was who observed how astounding it was that with no exposure at all to the average Englishman, she had a nearly infallible ability to sense and internalize what they were thinking.  Ronald Reagan also had that ability; we called him the “Great Communicator,” when what he really was, was the Great Receptor.  On the negative side we have the Hitlers and Stalins of the world, who played their people like so many fiddles pick-axes.

From Dear Leader’s bland assertion that “the private sector is doing fine,” to his sneering, “You didn’t build that,” and now to Biden’s comments about a dead, abandoned son’s reproductive organs, we may have two of the deadest receptors in recent memory.  And on the other side, we have a fellow who took his entire company to general quarters to go search for the missing daughter of an employee.

As you read the quotation, just keep murmuring to yourself, “Mr. Vice President; Mr. Vice President; Mr. Vice President.”

And are Their Dead no Less Dead?

. . . That is, the Sinti and Roma, which we English-speakers describe as “Gypsies”?

The horror of the Holocaust sometimes burns so blazingly bright that it destroys our ability to understand that the Jews were not the only group consigned to death by the Nazis.  The homosexuals of course were done to death as and when caught (OK, it’s impossible not to note that the fellow who composed “Des Großen Kurfürsten Reitermarsch,” Graf Cuno von Moltke, came from the same family which provided the commander who defeated France in 1870, and also the same fellow who dropped dead before the kaiser while wearing a ballerina’s costume), and of course the mentally handicapped were dispatched as “useless feeders.”

When one thinks of Nazis, one thinks of Jews.  Properly, by the way.

But the Jews were not the only victims of the Nazi genocide.  So also were the Gypsies, like the Jews the Eternal Other, the People Who Do Not Belong.  The people who wherever their camps were pitched were to that extent convenient objects to load up with blame for whatever misfortune happened to plague the neighborhood that year.  They died, but unlike the Jews they have had no wealthy, influential kinsmen in other lands to rub our noses in their degradation and death. 

Jewry’s dispersal, the Diaspora, was not only their curse but also their salvation.  To kill them all one must first lay hands upon them, and when they have sunk roots deep in the soil of the United States, which is quite capable and willing to dole out such ass-whippings as may be necessary to warn off the aspirations of ambitious princes (to borrow, imperfectly, from Gibbon), their complete eradication is not possible.  But the Gypsies didn’t come to the U.S.  They stayed in Europe.  Where Hitler found them.

Mourn them, as well as the other victims.  Promise their survivors that we will not stand aside once again.

Nigel Farage Tells It Straight

Zero Hedge has an excellent video of Nigel Farage, a British MEP, tearing off yet another strip from his fellow members.

While it’s an inherent weak point of parliamentary systems that their executives are also members of their legislatures, and thus power is not divided but rather concentrated, and their governments made less stable by reason of being subject to machinations of parliamentary nose-counting, it’s also a strong point that the executive must come down to the floor and take it on the chin.  Periodic doses of getting-it-with-the-bark-still-on make a good palliative for the kind of personality cults that the U.S. presidency has degenerated into.  It is a human failing to believe one’s own nonsense, to drink one’s own Kool-Aid.  All this “Hail to the Chief” business does nothing to tamp down that inclination.

I wonder if ol’ Nigel might be interested in moving to America.  We could stand to hear from him in Congress.  His “Who the hell do you think you are?” speech remains a classic.

Meet the New Boss &c. &c. &c.

True to his Chekist personal heritage, Putin arranges for contact with foreign NGOs to be punished as high treason and/or espionage, if those organizations “endanger the security of Russia.”  The existing law makes reference to the “external security” of the country; the new law ominously omits the foreign security nexus.

Russian politicians who are neither in Putin’s pocket nor frustrated latter-day Stalinists agree that the omission of the foreign security criterion will enable contact with foreign organizations which cause purely internal political problems to be classified as high treason and espionage.

Don’t think it will happen?  It has, already.  Most of the Red Army purges of 1937-38 were on the nominal basis of collaboration with foreign intelligence networks.  The Harbinisty, those Russians who had gone to live in China to work on the China branch line of the trans-Siberian railroad, were lured back home, only to be slaughtered almost to a man.  Their “crime”?  Acting as Japanese spies.  And on.  And on.  And on.  The allegation of foreign intelligence collaboration/agency was one of the NKVD’s top three charges to paste on an arrestee, right up there with “counter-revolutionary activity” and “counter-revolutionary agitation.”  Of course, the latter two also came with the “Trostkyite” sub-flavor.  And so forth.

And this is the fellow to whom Dear Leader has promised “more flexibility” after the November elections.

And Here You Thought Hooters Was Tacky

Dear Leader’s signature campaign tactic:  Go rooting through someone else’s divorce files, and splash them across the front pages.  It is, in fact, how he got to be a U.S. senator.

Unless you’re a lawyer representing one of the parties, there is just something irredeemably tacky about sifting through the legal fall-out of others’ domestic problems.  It’s the sort of thing indulged in by “oppo researchers” and others who wear hats indoors.  They probably drink their beer from a can in a sack, too.

And here we’ve got one of them in the Oval Office, where he can put his feet up on the Resolute desk, a gift from Queen Victoria to the American people.  Kindly spare me any assertion that the campaign is not behind this maneuver.  I’m not the brightest bulb in the fixture, but to ask me to believe at face value that Gloria Allred just happens to have hooked up with a woman whose divorce lies buried under decades’ worth of archival dust, and who doesn’t appear to have done too shabbily out of the thing in the first place — that’s insulting to the meanest of intelligence.

A few things strike me about the people I’ve heard this Allred (how appropriate) woman “representing.”  The initial thing is that the client is never, ever the sole interest benefitted by Allred’s actions on behalf of her client, or in fact the chief interest benefitted.  There’s someone or something else behind the scenes, never mentioned of course in the news reports, who stands to benefit from her doings much, much more than her nominal client.  Like the illegal alien whom she “represented” against Meg Whitman.  Allred exposed her nominal client to a risk of deportation (or maybe she’d already been assured by the INS that that flank was covered?  maybe?) in order to embarrass a political opponent of her . . . well, let’s just call them the people who benefitted most from what she did.  Ditto this new “client.”  What purpose, exactly, is being served for her by unsealing divorce records from years ago?  She went through an ugly divorce.  OK, that only happens several hundred thousand times a year.  Is she going to experience some great epiphany of healing by seeing it all played out on national television?  We can’t say; maybe she really craves her few moments of fame.

Maybe she also craves being one more exploited woman, one more time.  Because that’s another thing that’s struck me about the people “represented” by Gloria Allred:  the ones we hear about are all women, who are all transparently allowing themselves, their lives, their misfortunes, to be used by strangers, invariably men it seems, and then put back on the curb, precisely as one would do with a street-walker one had picked up.  I mean, seriously, has anyone done any follow-up story on Whitman’s poor o-pressed illegal alien housekeeper (or whatever it was she did)?  Anyone check to see if she’s got a green card (or for that matter, how soon after she allowed Allred to “represent” her she had one miraculously issued) or health insurance, or where she lives?  Is anyone going to check on this newest “client” five years from now to see how she’s doing after having what we must assume to be intimate details about a decades-in-the-past existence spelled out in nice, gentle, legalistic language for 300+ million people’s salacious gratification?

Maybe I really am just a stoopid country lawyer.  OK; I very likely am just such and no more.  But a lawyer has no ethical duty I am aware of to participate in a course of action obviously contrary to the client’s actual interests, especially where that client is being used by other clients of the lawyer.  May a lawyer ethically do so, after full disclosure of all <ahem!> conflicts of interest the lawyer may have?  Yes, she can.  Ought she do so, as someone supposedly practicing a learned and noble profession?  Well, she’s the one who’s got to brush her own teeth in the morning.